JANUARY 26, 2017 18:02
‘If the government forces me to go back to Eritrea, I will die there,’ says one man.
African refugees demonstration in front of Jerusalem Supreme Court

African refugees demonstration in front of Jerusalem Supreme Court. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Over 1,000 refugees, primarily from Eritrea, traveled to Jerusalem on Thursday from the Holot detention facility in the Negev to plead to the High Court of Justice for political asylum amid threats of deportation.

Wearing laminated Israeli Prison Services identification cards around their necks like scarlet letters, the men gathered in the Rose Garden, across from the Knesset, to protest a pending appeal that could result in their deportations to Sudan, Eritrea, Rwanda, or Uganda.

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According to the protest’s organizers, March for Freedom, asylum seekers who have been deported to third-party counties, such as Rwanda, have been systematically sent to Uganda, where they have no legal status, and are at risk of being repatriated back to Eritrea.

“The persecution they face forces our sisters and brothers to continue their search for refuge… where they are trafficked by gangs of smugglers, fall into the hands of ISIS, murderous gangs, and die in the deserts of Sahara and Libya, or at sea,” March for Freedom said in a statement.

“You, the justices of the High Court, are the only ones who have the authority to save Israel from committing the injustice of deporting vulnerable asylum seekers in violation of all international agreements. Our fate is completely in your hands, and we beseech you to carefully consider all of the implications of your decisions, and to make them with the utmost care.”

Tekle Negash, a 21-year-old Eritrean refugee who came alone to Israel in 2012, said he has been incarcerated in Holot for the past three months, where he described the conditions as “horrid.”

Negash, who formerly lived in Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva and Hadera, and supported himself by working menial jobs, said he was sent to Holot after not being able to procure another temporary visa, which refugees must renew every two months.

“When my visa expired, [the government] told me that I had to go to Holot, and that after one year there, if I can’t get another visa, I will be deported,” he said, noting that he is confined to a small cell from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. with 10 other Eritreans.

“It’s very crowded, and there is only one shower and one toilet for us,” he said. “The food there is very bad, and in the summer it’s very hot, and in the winter it’s very cold. We can leave for 12 hours, but we are not allowed to work.”

Negash added: “I applied for asylum, but I don’t have any hope because most asylum seekers are rejected. So, they told me I will have to go to Rwanda, Uganda, or Eritrea.”

Angesom Zerezghi, 26, also fled Eritrea, coming to Israel seeking political asylum seven years ago. He survived working odd jobs in Tel Aviv, until he was sent to Holot five months ago.

Instead of being deported to Africa, he said he hopes to find refuge in Europe, where he will be safer.

“After seven more months in Holot, I don’t know what will happen to me,” he said. “But if the government forces me to go back to Eritrea, I will die there.”

Amanuel Tsegazab, 26, was sent to Holot three months ago, after living in Eilat, where he worked as a dishwasher at a hotel for seven years.

“When I get out, if I can’t renew my visa, I will be deported, and I can’t go back,” he said, adding that it is difficult to obtain the necessary renewals.

“When you go to the visa place, you wait on line all day, and usually can’t get in and have to come back,” Tsegazab explained.

Jeremay Kehase, 33, has been in Holot for nearly one year, and said he fears for his future.

“I have to leave next month, and I am worried because the government has not accepted my asylum request,” he said.

“I can’t survive in my country.”


FEB 17, 2017 - 11:03
Refugees from Eritrea and Tibet arriving in Ticino in 2015

Refugees from Eritrea and Tibet arriving in Ticino in 2015

( Ti-Press/Keystone)

One of the United Nations’ top human rights experts says Switzerland had no good reason to crack down on Eritreans.

François Crépeau, a Canadian lawyer who serves as the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, lashed out at Switzerland’s recent decision to tighten its asylum policy towards Eritreans in an interview with two Swiss newspapers on Friday.

On February 2, the Federal Administrative Court said Switzerland wouldno longer recognise Eritreans as refugeessolely on grounds of having fled their country illegally. Until last summer, leaving Eritrea illegally was considered a legitimate reason for asylum, since whoever did so faced up to five years in prison in Eritrea.

However, the court decided “the illegal exit [from Eritrea] cannot in itself justify recognition as a refugee”, pointing to recent cases of Eritreans returning safely for short home visits after gaining asylum status in Switzerland.

Crépeau, whose job involves investigating human rights violations and promoting sound policies globally, said inan interviewwith the Tages-Anzeiger and Berner Zeitung there was no evidence that someone returning to Eritrea would not face punishment.

“Switzerland must be certain, in every single case, that a return for an individual will not be problematic. This requires a mechanism that can check that after returning nothing indeed happens,” he said.

Crépeau said Switzerland was “pretty much on its own” on this issue and warned against tightening policy based on doubts. Instead, he concluded, the rule should be: if in doubt, err on the side of protection.

The Swiss government’s policy for processing asylum requests from Eritrean refugees is important because Eritreans make up the largest single nationality among asylum seekers in Switzerland: some 5,000 a year. and agencies/ts


Eritrean president describes Hollande and Merkel as 'mentally disturbed'


The Eritrean president has lashed out at Europe for what he says is its role in economically sabotaging his country and depleting its human capital.

Isaias Afwerki was making a rare address on national television late last week as part of his traditional New Year message. Focusing on the infrastructure of the country and other projects for his country, Afeworki examined the thorny issue of migration that continues to bedevil his country.

He specifically took jibes at French President Francois Hollande and his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. Afwerki described both leaders as being mentally disturbed and that they were among those who encouraged the massive movement of his Eritrean youth to Europe.

Eritreans being the greatest historical threat to our enemies, trafficking in human beings has been used to disperse and weaken the country's human capital. The highest priority has been given to this policy, of asylum to the Eritreans.

Francois Hollande is on record to have said almost a year ago that Eritrea was empty of its youth. This was in reference to the teeming youth who left the country to undertake the perilous journey to Europe. “What does he know? What can it do to him?” Afwerki quizzed.

The German chancellor whiles on a visit in October 2016 visit to Ethiopia announced a significant financial aid as part of efforts aimed at Ethiopia accepting Eritrean fugitives. “He (Hollande) and Angela Merkel, all I can say is that these people must be mentally disturbed.”

The Eritrean regime is accused of huge violations of human rights and freedom of expression. The country is also at loggerheads with neighbouring Ethiopia. Ethiopia has also accused them of backing anti-peace forces behind protests in its Amhara and Oromia regions.

In a speech delivered at the 25th anniversary of the independence of Eritrea, he declared that the exodus of the youth of his country to Europe is the result of a deliberate policy fomented by the foreign powers To weaken Eritrea with a systematic recourse to economic sabotage “with the aim of creating poverty and famine”.

“Eritreans being the greatest historical threat to our enemies, trafficking in human beings has been used to disperse and weaken the country’s human capital. The highest priority has been given to this policy, of asylum to the Eritreans,” he said.

With an estimated 5,000 people leaving the country every month in search of a better life, Eritrea is one of the largest contingents of migrants risking the perilous journey to Europe.


UAE to open second military base in east Africa

Monday, 13 February 2017 20:05 Written by

Somaliland would be the second military base after the UAE facility in Eritrea, which has been used against the Houthis in Yemen

Ships being loaded in the port of Berbera, Somaliland in December 2015 (AFP)
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The United Arab Emirates is going to set up a second military base in the Horn of Africa, sparking concern among some governments in the region.

The Somaliland parliament approved the deal for the northern port of Berbera on Sunday, with 144 lawmakers voting for, two against and two abstentions.

Under the 30-year deal, the Emirati government will have exclusive rights to Somaliland’s largest port and manage and oversee operational activities.

DP World, the UAE’s ports operator company, will supervise the port, which will gain a naval base as well as an air base. The lease of the port is contingent on the $442 million deal with DP World.

In return, Somaliland will get investment as well as international recognition: no other country has yet recognised the breakaway territory – which separated itself from the rest of Somalia in 1993 - as an "independent state".

The Emirati port operator will manage the operational activities, but there's no official word on the time it will take for the military base to become fully operational.
UAE’s military is considered a formidable force in Africa, particularly after the establishment of its military base at Assab in Eritrea in 2015.

The Eritrean base has been used by the UAE in the Yemen war against the Houthis. It is not known whether the facility at Berbera will have a similar purpose.

Osman Abdillahi, minister of information and national guidance, toldSomaliland Press, the country’s official news agency, that the “UAE military base will bring investment which will open the flood gates for countries to recognise Somaliland.”

Abu Dhabi is reaching out to countries in and around the Horn of Africa, as it looks to increase its non-oil revenue through other avenues including real estate, trade and financial services.

Abdillahi said: “The Berbera to Wajale highway will cost about $230-300 million, not forgetting the creations of thousands of jobs for our people, which will alleviate the endemic joblessness that has incapacitated our people.”

It is significant because the UAE will be engaging in trade across the port, and for this, it would require a sustainable road network across Berbera. Hence, as the minister said, it will create opportunities for the local people on infrastructure development.

Tension with Ethiopia

But the Somaliland deal has angered Ethiopia, one of the regional powers in the Horn of Africa, which itself has economic ties with the UAE.

As recently as last year, the UAE and Ethiopia signed several investment deals, under the terms of which the UAE is legally bound to protect the economic interests of Ethiopia.

Last January,Ethiopia's prime minister rebuked the UAE governmentfor having established the base in Eritrea.

Hailemariam Desalegn said: “We have also stressed that they will bear the consequences of our response if their operation in the area supports the Eritrean regime’s destabilisation agenda against Ethiopia."

There is still tension between the two east African nations after they fought a war from May 1998 to June 2000.



by Martin Plaut

February 9


1.    Martin Plaut

Senior Research Fellow, Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study

Source: The Conversation

A squadron of UAE Mirage fighter planes such as this one at the Dubai Airshow are stationed in Eritrea for Yemeni operations. Reuters/Caren Firouz

Relations between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula go back centuries, with trade playing a key component in binding their people together. Religion has also played a part. The expansion of Wahhabism – the interpretation of Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia – has been funded by the massive oil wealth of the kingdom.

Mosques, Koranic schools and Imams have been provided with support over many years. Gradually this authoritarian form of Islam began to take hold in the Horn. While some embraced it, others didn’t.

Somalia is an example. While most Somalis practised a moderate form of Suffi Islam, the Islamic fundamentalists of al-Shabaab didn’t. Soon after taking control of parts of central and southern Somalia in 2009 they began imposing a much more severe form of the faith. Mosques were destroyed and the shrines of revered Suffi leaders were desecrated.

The export of faith has been followed by arms. Today the Saudis and their allies in the United Arab Emirates are exerting increasing military influence in the region.

But Saudi Arabia and other Arabian gulf states aren’t the only Muslim countries that have sought influence in the region. Iran, for example, has also been an active player. In the case of Eritrea, a struggle for influence between Riyadh and Tehran has played out over the past few years. This has also been true in neighbouring Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland.

These are troubled times in the Horn of Africa. The instability that’s resulted from Islamic fundamentalism, of which al-Shabaab are the best known proponents, have left the region open to outside influences. The French have traditionally had a base in Djibouti, but they have now been joined by the Americans and the Chinese.

The growing Arab military, political and religious influence is only the latest example of an external force taking hold in the region.

New powerful forces in the region

The Eritreans had been close to Iran and supported their Houthi allies in the Yemeni conflict. This was of deep concern to the Saudis, who are locked in conflict with Tehran. This is a battle for influence that pits Iranian Shias against Saudi Sunnis. Eritrea is just one of the fields on which it’s being played out.

As a US cable leaked to Wikileaks put it in 2010,

The Saudi ambassador to Eritrea is concerned about Iranian influence, says Iran has supplied materiel to the Eritrean navy, and recently ran into an Iranian delegation visiting Asmara. He claims Yemeni Houthi rebels were present in Eritrea in 2009 (but is not sure if they still are), and reported that the Isaias regime this week arrested six Eritrean employees of the Saudi embassy.

Since then Eritrea has switched sides. Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia in April 2015. Not long afterwards Eritrea signed a 30-year lease on the port of Assab with the Saudis and their allies in the Emirates. The port has become a base from which to prosecute the war in Yemen. The United Nations reported that 400 Eritrean troops were now in Yemen supporting the Saudi alliance.

The United Arab Emirates has constructed a major base in Assab – complete with tanks, helicopters and barracks. In November 2016 it was reported that a squadron of nine UAE Mirage fighter planes were deployed to Eritrea from where they could attack Houthi targets on the other side of the Red Sea. In return the Gulf states agreed to modernise Asmara International Airport, increase fuel supplies to Eritrea and provide President Isaias with further funding.

Since then the United Arab Emirates has announced its intention to increase its military presence in the Horn. In January it signed an agreement to manage the Somaliland port of Berbera for 30 years. It also sought permission to have a naval base, Somaliland foreign minister Sa’ad Ali Shire told reporters.

It’s true that the United Arab Emirates has submitted a formal request seeking permission to open a military base in Somaliland

The UAE are also active in the neighbouring Puntland. They have been paying for and training anti-piracy forces for years, while also financing and training its intelligence services.

They are a powerful force in the region, projecting an Arab influence as far as Madagascar and the Seychelles. It’s not surprising that the United Arab Emirates was labelled “Little Sparta” by General James Mattis – now President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defence.

Ethiopian concerns

These are worrying times for the Ethiopian foreign ministry. Once the dominant force in the region, its influence over the Horn is now in question.

To its north the Eritreans remain implacable foes, as they have been since the border war of 1998-2000 that left these neighbours in a cold no-war, no-peace confrontation.

Addis Ababa is concerned that Eritrea’s hand has become stronger in recent years. Its mining sector is looking increasingly attractive with Canadian based firms now joined by Australian and Chinese companies.

Asmara’s role in the ongoing war in Yemen has allowed Eritrea to escape diplomatic isolation. The government in Asmara is now benefiting from funds and weapons, despite UN sanctions designed to prevent this from taking place.

To Ethiopia’s west lies Sudan, which is also now involved in the war in Yemen, providing troops to the Saudi and United Arab Emirates backed government. These ties are said to have been cemented after the Saudis pumped a billion dollars into the Sudanese central bank. In return the Sudanese turned their backs on their former Iranian allies.

To Ethiopia’s east the situation in Somalia is also of concern. No Ethiopian minister can forget the invasion of the Ogaden under President Siad Barre in 1977, when Somalia attempted to re-capture the lands lost to their neighbours during the expansionist policies of Emperor Menelik II in the nineteenth century. Siad Barre may be long gone but Ethiopian policy since the invasion has been to keep Somalia as weak and fragmented as possible.

Ethiopia has intervened repeatedly in Somalia to hold al-Shabaab at bay as well as to maintain the security of its eastern region. Addis Ababa’s policy of encouraging the inherent fragmentary tendencies of the Somalis has paid dividends: the country is now a federation of states and regions. Some of these only nominally recognise the authority of the government in Mogadishu. Somaliland, in the north is close to being recognised as an independent nation. Others, like Jubaland along the Kenyan border, are under Nairobi’s influence.




Rome, Feb 9 (IANS/AKI)on Wednesday extradited toan Eritrean accused of belonging to a people-trafficking gang that smuggled hundreds of people fromtoacross the Mediterranean.

Fitiwi Negash arrived at Rome's Fiumicino airport under police guard aboard a flight from the German city of Frankfurt.


He was on an Interpol list of "most wanted" trafficking suspects and was among 24 Etritrean, Ethiopians, Ivoirians and Guineans targeted in April 2015 by a probe spearheaded by prosecutors in Palermo.

Negash played a key role in the trafficking gang's Italian operations and organised the transfer of migrants to various northern European countries after they arrived by boat in Sicily from North Africa, investigators said.

The alleged gang had bases in the Sicilian provinces of Agrigento and Catania as well as in the capitaland the northern city of Milan.

From Italy, the gang trafficked migrants on to Germany, Norway, Sweden and other countries, police said.

The gang organised the migrants' entire journeys from their villages to the Libyan coast and had affiliates in other European countries as well as in several African countries, according to investigators.



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)





Somalia's Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo chosen as president

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 23:42 Written by
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo addresses lawmakers after winning the vote at the airport in SomaliaImage copyright Reuters Image caption The new president is known as Farmajo, Italian for cheese

Somalia's MPs have elected a Somali-US national as the country's new president in a vote held in an aircraft hangar.

Ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed beat President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a surprise result.

The vote was held at the heavily guarded airport complex in the capital, Mogadishu, as the rest of the country is too dangerous.

Traffic was banned and a no-fly zone imposed over the city to prevent attacks by militant Islamists.

Despite this, suspected militants fired mortar rounds close to the venue on Tuesday night.

Somalia has not had a one-person one-vote democratic election since 1969.

That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.

Mr Mohamed's election is part of a lengthy and complex process to help the East African state rebuild its democracy and achieve stability.

More than 20,000 African Union (AU) troops are stationed in Somalia to prevent militant Islamist group al-Shabab from overthrowing the weak government.

The new president is popularly known as "Farmajo", Italian for cheese, because of his love for the dairy product.

Much of Somalia was a former Italian colony.

What has been the reaction to the result?

The aircraft hangar is crowdedImage copyright Amisom Image caption The aircraft hangar was crowded with MPs

Thousands of Somalis quickly took to the streets to celebrate Mr Mohamed victory and cheering soldiers from the Somali army fired into the air, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Mohamed is seen as a Somali nationalist, and his chances of winning increased after Somalia's arch-rival, Ethiopia, was seen to be backing the defeated president.

Mr Mohamed obtained 184 votes, compared with 97 for the outgoing president, who accepted defeat, avoiding a third and final vote.

"History was made, we have taken this path to democracy, and now I want to congratulate Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo," Mr Mohamud said in his concession speech.

Did the election go off peacefully?

Yes. The election hall, a converted aircraft hangar packed with MPs, was at the Mogadishu international airport complex.

It is viewed as the most secure site in Somalia, as the main AU base is there.

The vote was moved to the airport complex from a police academy because of growing fears that al-Shabab could strike.

The 2012 presidential vote was held at the academy, and the 2007 and 2004 vote in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti respectively.

Were there only male presidential candidates?


A woman, Fadumo Dayib, had said she would stand but pulled out saying it was marred by corruption. However she has welcomed Mr Mohamed's victory.

More than 20 entered the race on Wednesday, but the number was reduced to two after two rounds of voting.

At least 16 of the original candidates have dual citizenship - nine hold US passports, four UK passports and three Canadian passports, according to a leading Somali private radio station.

It means that if US President Donald Trump's ban on Somali citizens entering the US comes into force again, some of them could be affected.

Many Somalis obtained dual nationality after fleeing the decades-long conflict. The US, UK, Kenya and South Africa are among countries where many Somalis have settled.

How big a threat is al-Shabab?

Control map of Somalia

The militants are suspected to have been behind a series of attacks on the eve of the vote, with two mortar rounds fired close to the voting venue.

Residents in Arbacow village outside Mogadishu say militants also attacked an AU base there.

Al-Shabab has a presence in much of the southern third of the country and has previously attacked the Somali parliament, presidential palace, courts, hotels and the fortified airport zone.

At least 19 politicians, as well as many civilians and soldiers, have been killed in its assaults.

Wednesday's security measures include a ban on flights to and from Mogadishu airport.

Who are al-Shabab?

What is the new president's main challenge?

A Somali lawmaker casts his ballot during the presidential vote at the airport in SomaliaImage copyright Reuters Image caption More than 250 MPs are taking part in the secret ballot

Apart from achieving stability in a country that has not had an functioning government since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, he has to tackle corruption.

Unconfirmed reports said votes were being sold for up to $30,000 (£24,000) in a country heavily funded by foreign donors, and where most people are poor.

"This is probably the most expensive election, per vote, in history,'' Mogadishu-based anti-corruption group Marqaati said on Tuesday, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Ahead of the vote, the United Nations' envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, told the BBC the new president would have to tackle corruption.

"It sets the stage for the next president to do something about it. In fact the credibility of the next president will revolve around whether he takes decisive action," he said.

Analysts say holding the election at the airport complex is also aimed at reducing the possibility of vote buying or other corruption during the election process.

Will the UN and AU back the new president?

Yes. The UN and AU see the vote as a building block in efforts to create a stable democracy in the hope that the next president will be chosen in a one-person one-vote election.

Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017.Image copyright Reuters Image caption The security forces have taken up positions in the largely deserted city to prevent attacks

They cannot ignore Somalia. It is strategically important for international trade, as it lies along the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Foreign navies, including those of the US and China, have a strong presence in the region. They have succeeded in reducing piracy, which was a very big problem until a few years ago.

The US also has a huge military base in neighbouring Djibouti, using it to carry out air strikes on militants in Somalia.

Some analysts also fear that the conflict across the sea in Yemen could spill over into Somalia.

There have been reports that some groups are smuggling weapons into Yemen via the Eastern African state, increasing pressure on foreign powers to improve security in the region.


January 8, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Sunday said it has intercepted the smuggling of 1500 illegal migrants on the Sudanese-Libyan border during the last seven months.

JPEG - 135.1 kb
SRF field commander Mohamed Hamdan (Hametti) speaks in a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday May 14, 2014 (ST)

Sudan is considered as a country of origin and transit for the illegal migration and human trafficking. Thousands of people from Eritrea and Ethiopia are monthly crossing the border into the Sudanese territories on their way to Europe through Libya or Egypt.

In June 2016, hundreds of RSF elements have been deployed in the remote desert of the Northern State shortly after complaint by the governor of drug and human trafficking by the criminal networks.

On Sunday, 115 illegal immigrants captured by the SRF at Sudan’s northern border have arrived in Khartoum.

Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum Sunday, SRF Commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, (aka Hametti), said the victims would be handed over to the Ministry of Interior.

He pointed that Sudan is amongst countries who fight ruthlessly against human trafficking, illegal migration, arms smuggling and terrorism, saying the SRF troops were deployed along the borders with all neighboring countries.

Dagolo added that the SRF is making large efforts to combat human trafficking and illegal migration especially as the operations are being conducted in rough terrain within the desert, saying several of his men were killed and injured during these operations.

He demanded the international community to lift the sanctions imposed on Sudan in order to allow it to combat human trafficking, pointing to the adverse impact of sanctions on all segments of the Sudanese society.

Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 and remains on the US list of state sponsors of terror.

Washington admitted Sudan’s cooperation in the anti-terror war but now points that it wouldn’t remove Sudan from the list of states sponsor of terrorism or left economic sanctions before the end of armed conflicts in Darfur region and Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

Last year, the European Union granted a €100m development package to address the root causes of irregular migration in Sudan. The financial support came after pledge by the Sudanese government to cooperate with Brussels to stop human trafficking to Europe.

In January 2014, the Sudanese parliament approved an anti-human trafficking law which punishes those involved with human trafficking with up to 20 years imprisonment.

The RSF, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilized by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.

The militia was reactivated and restructured again in August 2013 under the command of NISS to fight the alliance of rebel groups from Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following joint attacks in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.


Eritrean women taking a photo in Ramat Gan. FLASH 90 PHOTO

From 2009 to the end of September 2016, 1,856 Eritreans made refugee claims in Canada, but in recent months, a small number of them made those claims after travelling here from Israel.

JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Toronto has helped facilitate the immigration of a small number of the refugees, who are coming under private sponsorships. Lia Kisel, language and settlement director at JIAS, said that as a sponsorship agreement holder, JIAS has received government approval to sponsor refugees and provide settlement services once they are in Canada.

“We have submitted applications for a couple of Eritrean families currently in Israel, as well as for other Eritrean and Ethiopian families not in Israel,” she said. “These families have been referred to our agency by NGOs in Canada and overseas.”


Kisel said the Eritreans are considered refugees from Eritrea, not Israel, as they retain refugee status, even though they found safety in Israel. “Refugees retain their status when a durable solution, such as being able to successfully settle and integrate, is not found in their countries of residence.”

Daniel Schild was on a recent El Al flight from Israel to Canada with a sizable group of Eritreans on board. He struck up a conversation with one family.

“The father was dressed in his best, a sports jacket with unfortunately a bad tear in the seam and a red bow tie. The mother was seated one row back. Her hair was beautifully braided and their toddler daughter – clearly born in Israel – also had cute braids. The father told me he has lived in Israel for seven years and communicated with the little girl exclusively in Hebrew. He told me that they began their application to come to Canada 18 months ago and suggested that they had people he knew in Canada but was very vague as to whom,” Schild said.

“The family was destined for Edmonton, and [another family] told me they were going to Regina. They had a precocious toddler son. They called him what sounded like Moshe, but spoke to him in their native tongue,” he added.

“I told them that except for the weather, Canada was the best country in the world, and I definitely felt a feeling of happiness mixed with uncertainty coming from them.”

According to Canadian government statistics, 383 Eritreans made refugee claims from January to September 2016, up from 290 in all of 2015.


Eritrea, located in east Africa, is an oppressive dictatorship that has imposed indefinite military service, denies basic freedom and which routinely tortures dissidents. Thousands of Eritreans have fled the country, and many have tried to make their way to Europe through Libya. Over the years, some reached Israel via Sudan and Egypt. In Sinai, they risked kidnapping by Bedouins who held them for ransom, routinely torturing and raping their victims.

In 2013, Israel completed a 140-mile- long fence on its Sinai border to prevent what the government termed “infiltrators” from entering the country.

According to Israeli data, as of June 2016, there were 42,147 asylum-seekers in the country, including 31,000 from Eritrea and more than 8,000 from Sudan. Israel has granted them “temporary group protection.” Although they’re in Israel legally, only four out of 2,408 applicants were granted refugee status, or 0.4 per cent. In Canada in 2016, the acceptance rate was 82 per cent.

Eritreans have become a polarizing issue in Israel. Some argue that given Jews’ experience as refugees, Israel should be more welcoming. Others say some could pose a security risk and they contribute to crime, and without entry limits, they’d pose a demographic challenge.

They’ve been offered $3,500 and a ticket to a third country that will accept them. More than 6,000 Eritreans have left Israel, most of them to third countries like Uganda and Rwanda, with which Israel has secret agreements. However, some reports indicate they’re not safe in those countries.

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said Canada and Israel have no specific agreements to resettle refugees from Eritrea via Israel. In 2016, almost all those Canada resettled fell under the private sponsorship program.